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Visiting Paycocke's

A view of Paycocke's, Essex, on street level
A view of Paycocke's on street level | © National Trust Images/Matthew Antrobus

Uncover the story behind Paycocke’s House, a glorious example of Tudor craftmanship. With a team of volunteer guides on hand to talk you through the quaint beamed rooms and tell age-old stories that might take you by surprise, there’s so much to discover in this unique merchant’s home on your visit.

Entrance Hall

Thomas Paycocke used the property to display his wealth and status. On the ceiling beams of the entrance hall, look out for the carvings of his and his wife's initials. As the skilled daughter of another local clothier, Margaret was the perfect wife for Thomas. If you look closely at the hall beams, you might even notice a face peering back down at you.

The Great Hall

The hall forms the most decorative part of the new elevation. The new building was constructed in the latest Continental European style, formed of five bays each providing individual rooms for different purposes and marking a distinct change from the previous fashion for open hall type dwellings.

A number of architectural features indicate this room was designed to impress. It is believed to have been used as the main showroom for Thomas’s woollen cloth business and where his high-quality produce would be displayed and sold.

Detail of a wooden door plaque reading the name Thomas at Paycocke's House, Essex
Detail of a wooden door plaque at Paycocke's House | © National Trust Images/David Levenson

The Panelled Room

This room forms the fourth bay of the new elevation and has been considerably altered since that time. The room is adjacent to the Great Hall on one side and to the cartway on the other. It’s likely this was used as a service room and a main business room. Thomas may have invested in linenfold panelling to add status to the room, although not all the panelling present today is original to the house.

The Great Chamber

The largest room in the building, the Great Chamber is displayed as it was probably used in Thomas Paycocke’s time as an entertaining space and a place he could take favoured clients for a meal of the best-quality food and wine and private conversation.

During the later history of the house, this room was used as a bedroom and has possibly been divided in two at some date, to create smaller chambers.

The Anteroom

In 1509 this room was an anteroom to the Great Chamber. The main function of the anteroom was to provide a waiting area for visitors before they entered the splendour of the Great Chamber to be entertained. One door leads to the Great Chamber and another to the bedroom beyond. Today, this room houses some swathes of Coggeshall white, the fabric Thomas Paycocke produced.

Detail of a smiling carved figure on the portal at Paycocke's House, believed to be a statue inspired by a mummer's play
Detail of a smiling carved figure at Paycocke's House | © National Trust Images / Tim Stephens

The Mummers of Paycocke’s

Paycocke’s House is covered in beautiful carvings but there are two very special wooden statues on either side of the cartway entrance that are of particular interest. The statues show a fool and a knight standing atop plinths and are, as far as we know, the oldest representations of mummers in England.

A mummers’ play is what we might call the original street theatre of England, and each one is associated with a particular place and date. A common one is St George and the Dragon and there is good evidence to suggest the figure to the right of Paycocke’s cartway is St George, with the presence of a winged dragon above the fool on the opposite side appearing to confirm this.

The character of the fool is often coupled with a ‘king’ figure or lord and master such as St George. Unfortunately, the tip of the Paycocke’s fool’s marotte is broken off, part of the wear and tear that 500 years will result in.

As to why these carved wooden statues are in Coggeshall, it would appear that in the 15th century the village had its own established company of mummers of such repute that they were hired by the nobility for performances. Since Paycocke’s was built between 1509 and 1510 it wouldn’t be surprising if reference was made to popular mummers from the local community in its architecture.

Visitor in the bedroom at Paycocke's House and Garden, Essex
Visitor in the bedroom at Paycocke's House and Garden, Essex | © Arnhel de Serra

The Bed Chamber

This room and a jettied attic space above, was created at some point during a second building phase, when a fifth bay was added over the cartway. However, it appears to have been planned from the outset, as the jetty and roof plates of the original 1509 building protrude by several inches in a manner that suggests an intention to provide a key for a later addition.

Changes would have been made to this room in the 16th and 17th centuries, however, re-use of old and new timbers make it difficult to determine the exact form of the original Tudor room. Little is known of the purpose of this room, but it’s likely to have been used for storage or as a bedroom.

The Solar Room

The Solar room is situated at the south end of what was once a jettied block, believed to be the only remaining section of John Paycocke’s House and is dated around 1420. The medieval building would have had single rooms on both floors and would have stretched almost as far as the street, probably set back perpendicular to the main road.

A Solar room is normally on an upper storey and has good natural light and would probably be where the owner would retire at night. The word Solar has two possible origins, it may have come from the Latin word ‘Solaris’ meaning sun or as the room provided privacy, it may come from the Latin word ‘Solus’ meaning alone.

The structure we see now in between the Solar and the main building was built in the early 17th century, the same time the mansard wing was added. Since many recycled timbers have been used it is difficult to date accurately.

For families

This year our family activities are themed around the 1920's, to celebrate 100 years since Paycocke's was gifted to the National Trust.

In the Solar

We have a range of original old books and games for hands-on fun. Have a go at Bagatelle, Shove Ha'penny, Snakes and Ladders, and Bar Skittles; help to build a jigsaw; get down on the rug with the toys; and read the books. You can also play with an old telephone.

Relaxed family visit days

On Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursday during school holidays, the house will be open without guided tours, for families to visit in a relaxed manner. There will be activities around the house to encourage exploration and stimulate young minds. (NB entry fees apply / free for NT members.)

Summer of Play

All through the school summer holidays the end of the garden will be set up for active play with all sorts of engaging games and activities for all the family. Free of charge.

Visit Coggeshall

Explore Coggeshall, a town overflowing with character and home to Paycocke’s.

Look out for

  • Coggeshall Grange Barn Just under half a mile from Paycocke's stands one of Europe's oldest timber-framed buildings, often described as 'cathedral like'.
  • The Abbey The remains of a 12th-century Cistercian Abbey complex founded by King Stephen in 1140. The monks chose this site for its peaceful surroundings and proximity to the river.
  • Coggeshall Museum Home to a variety of village treasures including a fine collection of Coggeshall lace.
  • Parish church of St Peter ad Vincula Built in the early 15th century and funded by wealthy wool merchants, this church is one of the largest in the area. Look for the Paycocke’s merchant mark.
  • River Blackwater Feed the ducks and soak up the tranquillity surrounding the river Blackwater.
  • Market Place Browse the boutiques and independent shops that dot the high street. Visit the market which runs each Thursday.
A close view of the windows and the plasterwork on the exterior of Paycocke's House, Colchester, Essex

Discover more at Paycocke's House and Garden

Find out when Paycocke's is open, how to get here, things to see and do and more.

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Visitor looking at the fireplace in the Panelled Dining Room at Paycocke's House and Garden, Essex

The history of Paycocke's 

Paycocke’s has an intriguing history spanning more than 500 years. Constructed in 1509, it has witnessed a religious reformation and survived a civil war.

Visitors in the garden at Paycocke's House, Essex

Explore Paycocke's garden 

Discover how an overgrown industrial yard is now an Arts and Crafts garden, featuring plants that would have been grown over the previous five centuries of the house’s existence.

Visitors in the Parlour at Paycocke's House and Garden, Essex

The history of the Paycocke family 

Originally built by a successful woollen cloth merchant, discover more about the family who started the development of this fascinating place.

Visitors and staff in the coffee shop at Paycocke's House and Garden, Essex

Volunteering at Paycocke’s House 

Volunteers at Paycocke’s House and Garden play a vital role in welcoming visitors and sharing knowledge about the building and its history. Discover how you can get involved.

A volunteer is seen dusting a window at Paycocke's House and Garden in Essex

Winter conservation at Paycocke's House 

When the doors of Paycocke’s House close for winter, the people who care for the place are hard at work inside. Discover what goes on behind the scenes.

Visitors in the Parlour at Paycocke's House and Garden, Essex

Booking your visit to Paycocke's House 

Explore the unexpected at Paycocke’s. Entry to the house is by guided tours, led by passionate and knowledgeable volunteers, which will reveal the hidden treasures and stories of the house. To guarantee your preferred time slot you may wish to book a tour in advance. Find out how, here.